Iran's Khamenei calls for making economy independent

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei spoke about the need for an economy that is not dependent on other countries.

al-monitor Iranian President Hassan Rouhani walks past a portrait of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as he arrives for a news conference in the capital Tehran, on Feb. 16, 2020.  Photo by Photo by ATTA KENARE/AFP via Getty Images.

Aug 24, 2020

During a virtual meeting with members of Hassan Rouhani’s Cabinet, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei reminded members of the administration that they have one full year left and to not let it go to waste. He asked the administration to issue reports on what they were able to achieve and what they failed to achieve so that people can judge for themselves the accomplishments of the administration.

In the administration’s final year, Khamenei urged them to fulfill the promise of building 600,000 homes and reforming problems with the budget, the banking system and the tax system.

On the issue of the economy, Khamenei stressed again for the administration to focus on domestic production, calling it the “key” to resolving the issues of unemployment and inflation. Khamenei conceded that due to US sanctions restricting the sale of Iranian oil, some issues are out of the administration’s hands, but he urged them to focus on issues they have the potential to resolve.

Khamenei slammed what he called “wasteful imports” and claimed that domestic producers have complained about them because it has led to their bankruptcies. He referred to luxury imports as an “obstacle” to a better economy and asked the administration to block them.

He also called for an economy that “is not attached to foreign changes” and referred to it as a “strategic mistake.” He continued, “The plans for an economy must not be delayed due to sanctions or be dependent on the result of an election of another country.” Khamenei said the economy must be designed such that they assume “sanctions will continue another 10 years.”

Khamenei’s point about an economy that is independent of foreign changes and not based on sanctions relief was a rebuke of Rouhani’s entire presidency. Rouhani was first elected into office in 2013 with a promise of striking a nuclear deal and opening the country’s economy to Western countries once the sanctions were lifted. Rouhani’s plan was short-lived, however, after President Donald Trump was elected in 2016 and wanted another nuclear deal and reimposed sanctions on Iran.

Trump’s reimposition of sanctions and exiting the 2015 nuclear deal has essentially brought all of Rouhani’s economic plans to a halt. The economy is faltering once again the way it was under President Barack Obama’s sanctions pre-nuclear deal. The country is now looking east to China and Russia, countries not dependent on four-year election cycles, to establish long-term economic cooperation.

Further exasperating the economic situation in Iran is the pandemic. Iran was one of the first countries to be hit hard with the coronavirus. It went under lockdown eventually but gradually lifted the lockdown due to economic concerns. Over 20,000 people have already died due to the pandemic, though officials say the actual number is higher.

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